Every otherwise typical news story tends to take on a catastrophic import when it happens to relate to the New York Knicks.
Blame the media, blame the city, blame whomever you'd like—the Knicks simply operate on a much larger scale than every other team in the NBA, even those with glitzy rosters in major markets.
In that vein, Iman Shumpert's torn ACL—an injury to a developing rotation player, but a rotation player nonetheless—somehow became a monster of a preseason item.
Shumpert's absence from the lineup hurts the Knicks, and considering the specifics of their positional deficit, that absence hurts quite a bit. But before things get out of control in regard to both assessments of Shumpert's game and measures of the Knicks league-wide importance, the specifics of New York's rotational situation deserve a bit of clarification.
What have the Knicks lost?
Shumpert was due for a clear role and regular minutes in the season to come. He assists in the orchestration of the offense. He creates shots through dribble penetration when he isn't hoisting ill-advised jumpers. And, of far greater importance: he plays better perimeter defense than every other Knick on the roster.
Shumpert's defensive work is incredibly sound, but it's the specific nature of his contributions on that end that makes his loss so unfortunate.
Without Shumpert, New York's best option for dealing with quicker perimeter threats is the hardly svelte Raymond Felton or the geriatric Jason Kidd—less than inspiring choices, to say the least. Things wouldn't be quite so dire if not for the parallel absence of Ronnie Brewer, but them's the breaks; New York is no stranger to the implications of injuries stacking on top of injuries, and though these particular ailments don't derail the team entirely, they certainly don't help matters.
There will be moments when the Knicks miss Shumpert, but at the same time, his wild ball-handling style wouldn't necessarily be conducive to turning around their offense. Perhaps Mike Woodson and his team really are best served by establishing some order and working Shumpert in after the fact; it's easier to integrate an unpredictable offensive element into a stable foundation than to lean on that element during the process of construction.
Shumpert may soon come to be a net positive on the offensive end, but for now, he seems too unreliable and too inefficient to bear weight in the Knicks offense.
What's the alternative?
Things get even stranger when one considers the Knicks vacancies on the depth chart, given the injuries to Shumpert and Brewer.
Woodson will have some two-point guard lineups at his disposal with Felton and Kidd as running mates, but other than that his hands are a bit tied.
J.R. Smith will likely gobble up much of the playing time at the 2 for New York, and that possibility should strike as much fear into the hearts of Knicks fans as it does glee into more general basketball observers. Smith is no less unpredictable than Shumpert but possesses a very different skill set that opens up a wider world of possible outcomes.
With extensive playing time, Smith could prove to be a tremendous success and fit in wonderfully with a Knicks team that struggled to score efficiently last season. Then again, he might be a complete disaster; Smith's habits as a player don't exactly coincide with traditional prescriptions for winning basketball, and they don't offer any specific solutions for what ails this particular core.
More than likely, he will oscillate between the two extremes. No Shumpert means the Knicks no longer have to rely on an inexperienced ball-handler to help create offense, but instead will field an unapologetic gunner for nigh 30 minutes a game.
This can only end well.
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